Going to Canada? A Guide to using a credit card | finder.com

Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our content.

Using a credit card in Canada

Know the potential fees and what’s accepted before you take off.

Updated

Fact checked

There’s good news: Our northern neighbor loves credit cards as much as we do. Unlike in Europe — where you’ll rely on cash for many transactions — in Canada, you can often get by with just your card.

Before taking your card to Canada, however, there are a few things you should know: fees, how to keep your card safe, where to get cash and more.

If you’re taking along a variety of cards, debit cards and cash, read our full guide on spending money while traveling in Canada.

Which credit card issuers are accepted in Canada?

Merchant acceptanceATM acceptance
Visacheck mark iconHighcheck mark iconHigh
Mastercardcheck mark iconHighcheck mark iconHigh
American Expressexclamation point iconFaircheck mark iconHigh
Discoverexclamation point iconFaircheck mark iconHigh

A few credit card fees to avoid

Though Canada is just a hop and a skip across the border, your spending there is still subject to international fees. In particular, you’ll want to avoid foreign transaction fees and currency conversion fees.

Foreign transaction fees

A foreign transaction fee is assessed when you use your card abroad, and it’s usually 3% of each transaction (though can be more, depending on your card).

Most credit cards have foreign transaction fees. However, all good travel cards come with no foreign transaction fees. For a few excellent cards, look into the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card and BankAmericard Travel Rewards.

Currency conversion fees

A merchant may offer to convert your bill into US dollars instead of charging you in Canadian dollars. This is called dynamic currency conversion, and it’s expensive because you’ll pay a currency conversion fee for it. If a merchant offers it, take a hard pass.

Compare credit cards for use in Canada

A common benefit of travel cards is their lack of foreign transaction fees. This means that you won’t have to worry about paying a fee every time you use your card while traveling. Although foreign transaction fees are often small, they can add up quickly over the course of a trip.

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 6 months
4x at restaurants including delivery and Uber Eats; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points) and 3x points on directly-booked flights
$250
Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 with this upper-mid tier travel card. Terms apply, see rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $750 through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Plus up to $50 statement credit towards groceries.
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on up to $1,000 on groceries until April 30, 2021, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a signup bonus worth $750 plus up to $50 statement credit towards groceries with this popular travel card.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
75,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 6 months, plus 10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 in combined purchases in the same timeframe
10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 combined in the first 6 months, 5x points on directly-booked flights on up to $500,000 annually, then 1x points after that and on other purchases
$550
One of the most valuable premium travel cards, featuring two welcome offers worth up to $4,500, multiple travel credits and unrivaled lounge access. Terms apply, see rates & fees
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

Magnetic stripe and chip credit cards

Over the past few years, your card providers have probably upgraded your existing credit cards to one with a chip inside. These cards are called, unsurprisingly, chip cards.

In the United States, we mostly have chip-and-signature cards — you must provide a signature during a transaction to verify your identity. Meanwhile, in Canada chip-and-PIN cards are standard. With this type of card, you enter a four-digit personal identification number to verify your identity.

Can I use my chip-and-signature card in Canada?

You’re not out of luck if you only have a chip-and-signature card. If you don’t have a PIN, Canadian point-of-sale systems will ask you to provide a signature to complete each transaction.

If you’d like, you can turn your card into a hybrid signature/PIN card — just ask your provider for a PIN.

Alternatively, you can pick up an actual chip-and-PIN card. Two such cards often recommended by travelers are the State Department Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum and the Andrews Federal Credit Union Visa.

What if I don’t have a chip card at all?

If you’re stuck with a magstripe card, you’ll likely be fine in Canada — card machines often allow swiping. Regardless, consider calling your provider to get a chip card. This type of card is generally considered more secure than magstripe cards, and it’s already standard around the world.

Is it safe to use my credit card in Canada?

For the most part, you’re quite safe from credit card fraud in Canada. You’ll rarely be on the hook for fraudulent transactions. Even if you owe money, US law states you can only be charged a maximum of $50.

As with all destinations, however, there’s the possibility your credit card information could be stolen. Here are a few ways to avoid it.

  • Keep your PIN safe. Whenever you enter your PIN, use your other hand to cover your inputs. This helps cut down on spying — both from hidden cameras and people looking over your shoulder.
  • Be careful about which ATMs you use. Avoid decrepit ATMs and ATMs in isolated locations. Instead, use ATMs attached to banks.
  • Cancel your ATM transaction if anything seems awry. Don’t use an ATM if your card doesn’t slide smoothly into the card slot, or if the keypad is difficult to press. The machine may be compromised by a credit card skimmer — a device that steals credit card information.

Credit card fraud, skimmers and keeping card information safe

Keeping your credit card (physically) safe

Thieves don’t just steal credit card information by recording your card number — they can also steal the card itself.

Pickpocketing isn’t a huge problem in Canada — certainly not as big of a problem as it is in Europe. However, it’s still a good idea to remain vigilant, especially in larger cities. Keep your belongings close, even if you’re in a supposedly safe place like a restaurant.

To decrease the chances your credit card will be stolen, consider keeping it in a money belt. This is a fabric pouch that you wear around your waist and hide under your shirt or in your pants. Also, consider neck pouches, hidden pockets or a belt with hidden pockets.

How should I prepare before my trip?

Before heading to Canada, ensure that you can use your credit card with no problems.

  • Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Foreign transaction fees can be a downer on vacation, but they’re easy to avoid if you pick the right card.
  • Highly consider getting a Visa or Mastercard. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted cards in Canada. You can use American Express at some locations, but many other merchants won’t take it. If you have a Discover card, you might not be able to use it at all.
  • Give your card provider a heads-up. Your card company hates fraud because it loses them money. If they see a foreign transaction on your card, they may put a hold on your account for suspicious activity. To avoid this, let your provider know you’ll be traveling to Canada.
  • Know who to call if you have a problem with your card while traveling. Your card might be stolen while you’re traveling, or you could lose it. In both cases, you’ll need the right number to call for a replacement card.
  • Know where you’ll get cash once you arrive. So you don’t waste time, plan out beforehand where you’ll get cash. See if your bank has international partnerships that allow you to use some ATMs for free.

Should I use my credit card to get cash?

Though you can likely use your credit card everywhere you go in Canada, you may need to get cash at some point. Unfortunately, it can be very expensive to get cash from your credit card. That’s because your card provider will charge you a cash advance fee as well as a higher interest rate for cash advances.
Check out this card’s pricing information table. As you can see, the cash advance APR is 25.74%, which is higher than the APR you’ll get for purchases or balance transfers.

Not only that, but you’ll see that a cash advance comes with a high fee. At a minimum, you’ll pay $10. But you might pay more because the fee is the greater of $10 or 5% of your transaction. If you take out a $300 cash advance, for example, you’ll pay the 5% fee — that’s $15.

Of course, credit-card ATM withdrawals may also be subject to foreign transaction fees. The implication is clear: Don’t use your credit card at ATMs.

Pick up a no-fee debit or ATM card instead

Instead of relying on your credit card to get cash, look for a low-fee debit or ATM card.

The debit card from the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account is one excellent pick. It reimburses you for any fees you may incur at ATMs. And because it’s not a credit card, you won’t have to worry about cash advance interest.

Even better, the card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. That means you can avoid the 1% to 3% fee that credit and debit cards often charge.

Next steps

Before you travel to Canada, answers these questions:

  • Which credit cards will I take? Consider taking at least two. Make sure they don’t have foreign transaction fees.
  • Do I understand the fees I might encounter? Knowledge is power — and it can save you a lot of money on your travels.
  • Have I called my card provider? Keep your card provider in the loop, and know what number you’ll call if you run into trouble abroad.
  • What’s my plan for cash? Have a debit card ready, and know which ATMs you’ll get cash from.

Once you’ve made these arrangements, you’re all set to use your credit card on your next Canadian trip. Safe travels!

See more guides on using a credit card in other countries.

FAQs

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and finder.com Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.

2 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    MagdySeptember 10, 2018

    Is there any transaction fees if I use my chase freedom credit card in Canada?

      Default Gravatar
      AshSeptember 11, 2018

      Hello Magdy,

      Thank you for contacting finder.

      There will a Foreign Transaction Fee of 3% (of the transaction value) which will be applied to all international purchases. Before you apply, you may want to learn more about the Chase Freedom® Credit Card.

      I hope this helps.

      Please do not hesitate to reach out again for your additional question/s.

      Cheers,
      Ash

Go to site